Concerns About Wireless Alerts
With the recent occurrence of an Amber Alert there have been several concerns that alerts did not reach mobile phones across several counties in northeast Montana. Some phones were not alerted because the option for Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs) were turned off on individual’s mobile phones while others who had the service turned on still did not get the notification. While the dissemination process for WEAs continues to be improved, there are a few important things about Wireless Emergency Alerts to learn for not only the next Amber Alert, but also for other weather hazards which may impact the area in the future. Below are some important facts to know about WEAs:
Wireless Emergency Alerts are emergency messages sent by authorized government alerting authorities through your mobile carrier. Government partners include local and state public safety agencies, FEMA, the FCC, the Department of Homeland Security, and the National Weather Service.
You will receive tornado warnings and flash flood warnings, local emergencies requiring evacuation or immediate action, Amber Alerts or presidential alerts during a national emergency.
WEA will look like a text message. The WEA message will typically show the type and time of the alert, any action you should take, and the agency issuing the alert. The message will be no more than 90 characters. Before consumers receive their alerts, FEMA must first authorize the federal, state, local and tribal public safety agencies. Once these alert originators are authorized, FEMA takes the messages from the organization and transmits the message to the participating wireless providers. Based on the information received from the alerting originator, the wireless providers disseminate the message to WEA-capable phones in the specified geographic zone.
You can opt-out of receiving WEA messages for imminent threats and Amber Alerts, but not for presidential messages. To opt out, please refer to instructions from your wireless carrier or visit ctia.org/wea for more information. Some cell phones allow the users to opt-in and opt-out directly on their devices. These devices differentiate the imminent threat alerts into two categories - “Extreme alerts” and “Severe alerts” as shown in the image below. The Extreme Alerts from the National Weather Service include warnings for tsunamis, tornadoes, extreme winds, hurricanes and typhoons. The Severe Alerts from National Weather Service include warnings for flash floods and dust storms. For example, by keeping Extreme Alert selected and de-selecting Severe Alert, the user would still be capable of receiving extreme alerts, but would not receive Severe Alerts on their cell phone. Depending on the type of phone and carrier that you have, this will vary. Alerts may be labeled as “Government Alerts” or “Emergency alerts”. This may be in the notifications section of your phone. For further directions, visit ctia.org/your-wireless-life/consumer-tips/wireless-emergency-alerts.